The play of the day was Montana which obviously was an impossible target for us. We still felt like chasing though and our forecasting (as well as SPC) hinted at a meager chance of supercells in the Texas panhandle (again). We did not have anything better to do, or chase, so we thought we might just chase it anyway. So, we packed a one-night-bag and left. The goal was to at least experience some nice hail and/or gusty winds.
When we reached the panhandle we could see cells go up but way west into New Mexico – pretty much exactly where I had been chasing with Extreme Chase Tours two days earlier. They were three hours away (also meaning three hours back) so we thought we would wait for our primary target to fire up. About that time David got a call from his wife than someone was trying to contact me over Facebook. I do not have data coverage so I had no idea of who it was and why someone tried to contact me.
It turned out Randy Hicks had been able to cancel his appointment and was “fixin’ to leave”. I got really bummed out since this pretty much meant I would not be able to chase the north, or anything else, until Friday. When I got in contact with him it turned out he was actually willing to meet us up halfway, Oklahoma City, which was great news! I was still not prepared for a few days trip but at least I had all my cameras, my toothbrush and an extra set of underwear. As far as I am concerned that is pretty much all I would really require!
The Outlaw chasers
So, I switched cars in Oklahoma City. David continued back home and I, Randy, and his chase partner Lisa, (together they call themselves the “Outlaw chasers”) started our long haul up north. At that time I had been in a car since about 7.30 and we were looking at a drive up to northern Nebraska! But, hey, what won’t you do to see some amazing storms!
As mentioned, I had met Randy at the dinner before so I did not know him but he seemed very nice. I guess, however, that I did not really realize exactly how hardcore of a chaser he, and Lisa, actually were. In fact, I was quite a bit worried when he told me how close he tried to get to the tornadoes in order to deploy his probe together with all the stories of near misses and actually ending up in the tornado.
Randy has a probe with three GoPro-cameras mounted on it and his goal is to film the “eye of the tornado” (he has some amazing footage from the Pilger tornadoes). It has never been filmed but has, according to Randy, been reported by two people. Once by a bible salesman in Texas who saw it from a storm cellar after his dog was sucked up by the tornado. The other time the eye of the tornado was spotted was when a tornado went over a bar and two guests clinged onto their bar stools while the roof was getting ripped off. One of the bar guests claim to have seen the eye while trying to hold on to his friend who was about to get sucked up into the tornado. I was quite skeptical but I appreciated the effort, and their mission, to really find out the truth about these reports and make footage no one else have ever really done before!
I was happy to be on the path of chasing but after hearing one story after another about near death-experiences I was starting to doubt this whole enterprise. The fact that they have had a bad season and were getting desperate did not encourage me either. It was too late to back out though so I pretty much had to commit to my decision. My options at this point were either to hop off in the nearest town and have no real means to get back to Tulsa or to come along for the ride, so I chose the latter.
It should be noted that both Randy and Lisa are incredibly kind and nice people and my doubts about chasing with them had nothing to do with them as people. Quite the opposite actually, I enjoyed their company and interesting stories. It was just their high risk style of chasing that I was not too happy to suddenly be a part of.
We came into York, Nebraska, at 1.30 am in the morning and I was dead tired. Still, I had a bit of a hard time falling asleep considering what might happen in the upcoming days. For the first time chasing, I was not too sure I wanted to see tornadoes!